Marco Island City Council members went head to head over a consent agenda item to approve additional funding for the renourishment of Tigertail Lagoon, Hideaway Beach, and Sand Dollar Island on Monday night.
Councilman Erik Brechnitz was the one to bring the item up for debate, as he felt that social media had caused a misconstrued sense of the proposed project. Brechnitz accused people on social media of spreading lies about the item and telling the public that the project would cost taxpayers.
“Social media is a cesspool of bad information,” he stressed while asking the council for further debate. “Over the weekend, this thing blew up.”
Brechnitz wanted to set the record straight, telling everyone that the project is being paid for entirely by residents of Hideaway Beach, who agreed to a special tax for this, and by Tourist Development dollars. The project is a roughly $4 million dredging and renourishment project that is underway to keep Sand Dollar Lagoon healthy.
Mohamed Dabees, vice president of Humiston & Moore Engineers and project engineer, said the extra funding is essential.
“If council turns it down, they can’t do the additional work,” Dabees explained at the meeting. “The ramifications are that we will build something substandard. We will be more vulnerable if we get hit by another tropical storm. We would have to come back after the first tropical storm that affects our area, and it would take on additional mobilization.”
Hideaway Beach, Tigertail Beach, and Sand Dollar Island have been popular places in the past, with more than 500,000 visitors a year. Those numbers dwindled to 200,000 after Hurricane Irma destroyed much of that area.
Brechnitz praised the residents of Hideaway Beach for taxing themselves to pay for renourishing a public beach and lagoon.
“Hideaway Beach is a neighborhood,” the councilman said. “Those folks are our neighbors, and they happen to be very generous neighbors that have agreed to tax themselves to keep that beach open for the rest of us.”
After lots of assurances that taxpayers will not pay a penny for the work, council members voted 7-0 to approve moving forward with the project. The extra $650,000 requested for the project will be up for consideration by the coastal advisory council on Thursday (January 12).
The project is looking to enhance the original project that was proposed due to the damage caused by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Ian. It will involve dredging about 428,000 cubic yards of beach sediment from multiple areas to place on Hideaway Beach and Sand Dollar Island to recreate the sand spit and barrier system to prevent the lagoon at Tigertail Beach from being silted in.
With the council's approval, it looks like the project is well on its way to being completed, and tourists will once again be welcomed back to the area to enjoy the beautiful beaches.